“You shall have no other gods besides me.” (Exodus 20:3)
So, who was God referring to when he supposedly uttered those now-famous words? What other gods could there have been? Take your pick, as there were actually many different gods in the Bible!
In Genesis, God creates heaven and earth, and man of course. The thing to remember about the Genesis story is that it took place a couple of thousand years before Moses. There is a linkage there that’s often missed, though. That is, Moses lived at the time of the Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten who is considered by most historians to be the father of monotheism. If true, this would mean that all religious beliefs prior to Akhenaten, including that of the Israelites, were polytheistic. That should really be no big surprise as most biblical scholars believe that was the case anyway.
Therefore, the context of the Genesis story had to have been one of a belief in many gods. How could it have been otherwise? The Bible, itself, actually confirms it (e.g. it says that Abraham’s family worshipped other gods). Yet, the Genesis story has been widely interpreted as the story about the one and only god. Do you see the incongruity there? So, how should the Genesis story be correctly viewed given that the ancient Israelites were polytheistic? Let’s try to break it down.
The gods of the Bible
The god of Genesis 1 was referred to as the Elohim in the Hebrew texts. Wikipedia says this about the term Elohim, “Hebrew grammar allows for this nominally plural form to mean ‘He is the Power (singular) over powers (plural)’, or roughly, ‘God of gods.’” Along those lines, certain verses in the Bible are actually translated as “God of gods” (for example, see Joshua 22:22, Psalm 136:2 and Deuteronomy 10:17).
Things really get interesting in Psalm 82:1,6. There we find that, “God (Yahweh) standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods…I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.” Here the plural form of Elohim is on full display. The twist in this verse is the use of the term “most High”, referring to the god most High. The relationship between Yahweh and the god most High can be plainly seen in Deuteronomy 32:8-9, as follows:
“When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel. For the Lord’s (Yahweh) portion is his people; Jacob (Israel) is the lot of his inheritance.”
So, the writers of the Old Testament believed that the Elohim were the creator gods and that Yahweh was the ranking member of the Elohim. However, above them all was someone they referred to as the god most High. So when Yahweh proclaimed that “you shall have no other gods besides me”, it makes sense who he might have been referring to.
Gods or humans?
Something that is often overlooked about the gods of the Old Testament is how much they looked and acted like humans. One could chalk that up to fanciful writing on the part of the Old Testament writers or there could be a simpler explanation. The stories could just as well have been based upon actual contact with a life form that they didn’t understand, a life form that told man that they were gods. The Old Testament is actually replete with such stories.
In Numbers 23:19, it says that, “God is not a man, that he should lie….” The clear inference is that God does not lie, only man does. However, the god of Genesis lied about dying if you ate the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge (see Genesis 2:17). The only logical conclusion that one can draw from this is that the god of Genesis was not God. If he wasn’t God, then, exactly who was he?
Well, there’s actually a few clues in the Bible that indicate who the gods of Genesis might have been. For starters, Genesis 1:26 says that man was created in the image and likeness of the Elohim. In evolutionary biology, the only way for life to be created is from a similar life form, more specifically one with the same DNA (e.g. every human being on this planet came from another human being and every elephant on this planet came from another elephant). Further, in Genesis 3:22, Yahweh says that man has become “like one of us” (like the Elohim). So, man’s creator gods must have been very similar to a human DNA-wise. That is, modern man’s creator gods must have been physical life forms.
The origins of man
Arguably, the greatest scientific discovery of all-time was the discovery of DNA. In 1962, molecular biologist Francis Crick and James Watson were awarded the Nobel Prize for developing a model for the helical structure of DNA, which was the jumping off point for the ground-breaking work that would follow in the field of genetics. Because of his own continued work in the field of genetics, Crick would come to believe that life on Earth may have been seeded deliberately by other civilizations. That theory is generally referred to as Directed Panspermia.
So, according to Crick, an advanced extraterrestrial civilization may have been responsible for the creation of modern man (Homo sapiens). They wouldn’t have created the universe and all life in it, but they could have been responsible for a DNA upgrade of an existing life form on this planet, an upgrade utilizing their own DNA. If so, they may have been referred to by ancient man as the Elohim (or God, to some).
Understanding the Bible
What’s missing in all of the discussion about the Bible and its creation story is this. There was more than one god. Without that understanding, there is no way to fully comprehend the bible stories.
That is, in the beginning there was the Prime Creator god who presumably said, “Let there be light.” He created the universe and was responsible for the Big Bang, whose cause was obviously beyond space and time. As life evolved, other life forms came into existence. So, eons after the initial creation, highly evolved life forms came to this planet and created modern man (from life forms that already existed here). They were not gods, but rather an advanced extraterrestrial civilization, just as Crick surmised. That’s why they looked and acted like humans (unlike the God of the New Testament who is considered to be an invisible spirit). Because they were a very advanced species, they had technology that made ancient man believe that they were dealing with gods. After all, they created modern man, didn’t they?
In the final analysis, it’s important to remember that the Bible never says that man was created in the image and likeness of God. What it actually says is that man was created in the image and likeness of the Elohim. Ancient man called the Elohim “God”… but they weren’t. This understanding is the secret that religion has not passed on to the masses…but, of course, now you know.
It was more than three thousand years after Adam and Eve before the Israelites wrote the Old Testament and adopted Judaism. Yahweh finally got his wish. He received a promotion to the “one and only god”. From that point on, the Old Testament would be considered to be a story about the one true god. There would be no other gods before us.
“Beyond all finite experiences and secondary causes, all laws, ideas and principles, there is an Intelligence or Mind, the first principle of all principles, the Supreme Idea on which all other ideas are grounded.”
It never ceases to amaze me how people can read the Bible and come up with a different explanation from what the printed words say in plain language. I guess that’s what George Bernard Shaw meant when he said that, “No man ever believes that the Bible means what it says – he is always convinced that it says what he means.” Here’s a case in point.
The question has to do with God telling Adam that he would die if he ate from the Tree of Knowledge. If you recall, here’s how the conversation went:
- In Genesis 2:17, God tells Adam: “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”
- In Genesis 3:17, God doles out his punishment for disobeying him with regard to eating of the Tree of Knowledge: “And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life.”
The plain words of these passages tell a pretty simple story. God told man not to eat of the Tree of Knowledge (and Adam disobeyed him). The punishment was to live “a life of sorrow.” However, Adam did not die as God had warned him but rather lived to be 930 years old.
Actually, the serpent knew the truth all along and told Eve as much. Here’s the pertinent Bible verses:
- In Genesis 3:3, Eve tells the serpent, “But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.”
- In Genesis 3:4-5, the serpent responds to Eve as follows: “And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
What follows in Genesis 3:6-7 is also telling: “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened….”
So, it was just like the serpent said. One doesn’t drop dead if they eat from the Tree of Knowledge. Further, what the serpent said would happen did, in fact, happen. That is, if you eat from the Tree of Knowledge “then your eyes shall be opened”…and they were indeed opened as the Bible states. The serpent also told the truth about what happens when your eyes are opened. He says in Genesis 3:4-5 that you will become gods, knowing good and evil. In Genesis 3:22, God actually confirms the truth about what the serpent said when he says, …“Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil….”
The fruit (apple) of the Tree of Knowledge is a universal symbol of temptation and the giving in to that temptation resulting in Paradise Lost, as Milton would have it. However, the use of the apple as this kind of symbol predates the writing of Genesis. For example, Greek mythology used the symbol of a serpent-like dragon that was coiled around a tree in the garden of the Hesperides protecting the divine golden apples. In fact, both Shakespeare and Milton later included the divine Garden of Hesperides in their works.
Today, most people would say that the world is not a safe place. Certainly, God, if he were here, would not look out over his creation and say that it is good. So, even religious people have to question how an omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent God created such an imperfect world. That’s why the Church came up with their theology of Creation Out of Nothing to explain how God was not the cause of evil. However, if God didn’t create evil, pray tell who did? Further, if Eve could be tempted by an evil being, then the temptation had to be the end-result of something that God both created (i.e. the serpent) and expected. After all, God was omnipotent and omniscient, wasn’t he?
As simple a story as Genesis is, some people still feel the need to reinterpret it. Thank you, George Bernard Shaw. After all, every story has to have a good guy and every story has to have a bad guy. Therefore, in the orthodox church, the snake has been forever known as the villain of this story. Yet, it was God that lied while the serpent told the truth. Of course, this wasn’t the first time that God deceived man. In the very beginning (Genesis 1), God originally gave the Tree of Knowledge to man, as the Bible says, to have dominion over. Who would have ever believed that Paradise could have been lost over a Tree that had been originally promised by God to man?
…”If you get mad at your Mac laptop and wonder who designed this demonic device, notice the manufacturer’s icon on top: an apple with a bite out of it.”
– Peter Kreeft
Recently, I was reading a blog that stated that at the time of the Creation God saw that it (his creation) was good. So, I posted a comment saying that, “Eventually, however, he would repent and come to see that man was evil, that man wasn’t good after all (and brought a great flood to destroy his creation). Not very omniscient I would say.”
The rest of the thread went like this:
Blogger: Prior to the fall, man was good. The flood is multiple thousands of years after the first few chapters of Genesis.
My comment: The point was, though, that a supposedly omniscient God didn’t know that man would become evil. In fact, he should have known even before he created him.
Blogger: Where on earth are you getting this insane idea that He didn’t know what was going to happen?
My comment: God saw that it was good, just as Genesis says. What, he didn’t know that it (man) would become evil? Of course, he knew since he is omniscient. So, there are a number of possibilities (your choice): (1) God lied when he said that it was good; (2) God had a plan from before the time of creation to produce a being that would become evil; (3) God is not omniscient or (4) the God of the Bible is not truly God. Which one do you choose?
Blogger: God created a being with the freedom to choose. That freedom held within it the possibility to choose evil. That does NOT mean God created evil….
The problem of evil
So, if God didn’t create evil, who did? Let’s break it down.
According to the Bible, God created everything. Yes, everything, even the serpent. By definition, then, he must have created evil. Therefore, if you believe in Satan, the Devil or Lucifer, God also intentionally created them as well (by definition). Reflect a moment and consider why he would have done that.
If God was indeed omniscient, he would have known how his creation would turn out. As the Bible says, “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things” (Isaiah 45:7). Biblically speaking, then, an omniscient God knowingly created evil.
The god of Genesis
There’s one catch, though. God didn’t really know how man would turn out (see Genesis 6:5-7). When he saw man’s wickedness, he regretted having created man in the first place and, therefore, decided to destroy his creation. It’s what I call a Frankenstein moment. God, only then, realized what a monster he had created. These verses clearly demonstrate that God was not really omniscient, or that Yahweh was not really God. Your choice.
Then there are what I call the “say what?” moments in the Bible:
- God created the serpent (Genesis 3:1) and saw that it was good. Remind me again how something that was supposedly evil was good. I guess that God thought it was good, though.
- God gave man the Tree of Knowledge (Genesis 1:29) and later changed his mind (Genesis 2:17). Changed his mind? How is it even remotely possible that an omniscient God could, or would, change his mind. However, he didn’t just do it once. He did it at least three times that we know of. He also changed his mind with regards to the Tree of Life, placing it off-limits after the fact (Genesis 3:22-24). Then, there’s God change of heart in deciding to destroy his creation.
Finally, God lied about dying if one ate the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. Of course, he then punished the serpent for telling the truth. So, tell me, exactly who is the good guy and who is the bad guy?
What have we learned, then, about what the Bible says about the god of the Old Testament? Let’s recap:
- God is somewhat bi-polar. One moment he loves us and the next he’s bringing a flood to get rid of us.
- God likes to change his mind. We’re good, we’re evil; you can have the Tree, no you can’t.
- God isn’t fair, which explains God punishment of the serpent (for telling the truth) and God’s punishment of Adam and Eve for a so-called act of disobedience when they didn’t have the capacity to distinguish between right and wrong.
- God lies (e.g. about dying if you ate the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge).
- God subscribes to the philosophy of do as I say, not as I do. That is, he violated his own commandment about killing.
So, that’s what the Bible, itself, says about the God of the Old Testament. Given all of that, exactly what kind of god are we really talking about here? Certainly, not one that I would want to emulate or pray to. How about you?
Truth be told… he wasn’t even God (the Prime Creator).
There is more than one god in the Bible. Actually, there are many gods, including Yahweh, the Elohim, the Most High god and the invisible spirit (God) of the New Testament, among others. It can all be pretty confusing to a reader of the Bible so, in my next post, I’ll try to sort it all out.
“Out of the mouth of the most High proceedeth not evil and good?”
In his book The Grand Design, Stephen Hawking said that, “Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing.” The first question that comes to mind is how can something be created out of nothing? However, in addition, this statement raises other questions while providing no real answers. Let’s break it down.
How can you create something out of nothing (and from nowhere)?
In science, it’s impossible to create something out of nothing. Mathematically speaking, 0+0 will always equal zero.
The universe can and will create
So, exactly what kind of life force is this, anyway, that can create? After all, creation implies intelligence.
How is it that a Natural Law allows the universe to create?
Natural laws determine the process. They are predictive (only), but they do not create anything themselves. Besides, as Einstein said, “If there is a law there is a lawgiver.” Interestingly enough, theoretical physicist S. James Gates, Jr. says that his research indicates that the Natural Laws of the Universe contain embedded computer codes. If not a lawgiver, then, there must have been a super-intelligent computer programmer instead.
Theories, fossils and reverse engineering
So, what we really have here is an attempt to provide a quasi-scientific explanation for an ideology. How did we ever get to this point? Well, to begin with, some scientific theories have been reverse engineered, so to speak. That is, scientists first started with a theory and then the framework for scientific enquiry was constructed on top of that, in order to hopefully provide the necessary observations to prove the theory; such was Darwin’s Theory of Evolution for example. Darwin realized that the fossil record did not, at that time, support evolution but he assumed that future examination of the fossil record would eventually produce the necessary observations of transitional fossil forms required to prove his theory. However, it was none other than Stephen Jay Gould, an evolutionist himself, who later admitted that those fossils couldn’t be found.
Aside: Of course, Darwin didn’t know anything about DNA (how could he have known?) and, if he had, I seriously doubt that he would have ever promulgated such a theory in the first place.
Where did time, space and matter come from?
Here’s the problem facing scientists on the issue of the origins of life in the universe. According to scientific theory, time, space and matter were all created simultaneously out of nothing (and from nowhere). The universe (poof) just popped into existence. Just poof.
Of course, science now admits that the universe had a beginning (The Big Bang). It was Michael Turner, a cosmologist at the University of Chicago, who observed, “If inflation is the dynamite behind the Big Bang, we’re still looking for the match.” It follows, then, that since the Big Bang had a match there must also have been a match lighter (i.e. a cause). In this case, the cause could only have come from beyond space and time.
As for “creation out of nothing,” it’s just a euphemism for the unknown, a way for science to claim that it understands something that can’t really be understood scientifically. As the ancient Greek philosophers noted, the only thing that can be created from nothing is nothing.
In his book The End of Science, John Horgan raised the issue that there is a limit to knowledge as science attempts to push beyond what’s observable, since it is not possible to observe what exists beyond space and time simply by observing Nature. Yet, scientists do it everyday, with no thought about using the scientific method. Robert Lanza explained it thusly, “We have failed to protect science against speculative extensions of nature, continuing to assign physical and mathematical properties to hypothetical entities beyond what is observable in nature.” Stephen Hawking, of all people, should know better.
“Reality is not confined to space and time. The psyche is not under obligation to space and time alone.”
– Carl Jung
I keep seeing spam, or whatever it is, on my internet sports page about the topic “Is Jesus God?” It got me to think that I should ask those presumably in the know – Christians. So, here’s a little multiple choice questionnaire, just for Christians:
Question: Which of the following, if any, are correct?
- Jesus is God
- Jesus is the son of God
- Jesus is Yahweh
- Jesus is the messiah
- Jesus is the archangel Michael
- Jesus is a manifestation of God
According to varying Christian beliefs, it actually might be any one of them. That is, different Christian denominations have different beliefs with respect to Jesus. So, there basically isn’t any one right answer that reflects all Christian thinking. Every Christian denomination seemingly wants the right to define the Word of God their way, and their way only.
Aside: Islam holds that Jesus was a prophet and according to atheists… well, God doesn’t exist so it really doesn’t matter to them, now does it?
To confuse matters further, Judaism believes that Jesus wasn’t the long-awaited messiah prophesied by the Old Testament. The reason is that the Old Testament prophecies are actually prophecies from the Jewish Bible. You see, the Old Testament is, in reality, the Jewish Bible (the Tanakh). Jewish prophets wrote the prophecies and Jewish holy men said that Jesus did not fulfill their prophecies. So, these were not Christian prophecies but rather Jewish prophecies and the only messiah that anyone could have been expecting was a Jewish messiah. Actually, it would be hundreds of years before Christianity even became a religion.
The Jewish messiah was actually supposed to be both a messiah and a king, like King David who was considered to have been a messiah in his own right. In order to fulfill the messianic prophecies of the Tanakh (according to the Book of Isaiah), the following would have to occur:
- All the Jews in the world would have to return to the Holy Land.
- All the people in the world would have to worship the Jewish god.
- The messiah would have to restore the Kingdom of Israel (then ruled by foreign powers).
- The messiah would have to be named Immanuel.
With respect to the disciples, they were Jewish and they lived their lives strictly in accordance with the Torah. Therefore, they could only have been expecting a Jewish messiah. That’s why the disciples asked Jesus (see Acts 1:6), “…Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” They understood that this was potentially the fulfillment of one of the Jewish prophecies relating to the long-awaited Jewish messiah.
Of course, it never happened. Jesus did not restore the kingdom of Israel or fulfill any of the other prophecies for that matter. Even today, arguably three out of the four prophecies remain unfulfilled.
World-famous theologian Albert Schweitzer, in his seminal work The Quest for the Historical Jesus, pointed out that Jesus was supposed to return during the lifetime of the disciples (see Mark 13 and Matthew 24). For that reason, noted Christian apologist C.S.Lewis stated that Matthew 24:34 is the most embarrassing verse in the Bible.
The thing is…Jesus certainly would have returned as he promised the disciples…if he could have. Even in the Bible, they asked why Jesus did not return as promised.
“They will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.’”
– 2 Peter 3:4